- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 21, 2003

Eight members of the Alabama Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the state’s chief justice must heed a federal court order and remove a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Judicial Building.

The ruling could mark the end of Chief Justice Roy Moore’s fight to keep the 21/2-ton granite monument.

The decision by Chief Justice Moore’s colleagues came just a day after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Chief Justice Moore’s emergency plea to block U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson’s order that the commandments be removed from the rotunda of the judicial building in Montgomery.

Chief Justice Moore said he is “disappointed” to be overruled by his fellow Alabama justices, but said he is not giving up.

“Let me assure you, the fight to defend our constitutional right to acknowledge God must and will continue,” the chief justice said among cheering supporters at a press conference yesterday. “To do my duty, I must acknowledge God. That’s what this case is about. … I have been ordered to do something I cannot do.”

He said he will soon file a motion with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the court to hear his full case on its merits. Rep. Mark Foley, Florida Republican, said the high court should immediately hear the case when it returns in October.

“God’s name is on our currency, in our Pledge of Allegiance and mentioned throughout the very Constitution that is protecting Mr. Moore from a liberal activist judge,” said Mr. Foley. “The courts have repeatedly protected the mentioning of God in federal and state settings. So shouldn’t the word of God also be protected?”

But the eight state justices said Judge Thompson’s order must be followed, writing that they are “bound by solemn oath to follow the law, whether they agree or disagree with it.”

The Alabama justices directed the building manager to “take all steps necessary” to remove the monument “as soon as practicable.” There was no immediate action late yesterday afternoon to remove the commandments. Some of Chief Justice Moore’s supporters pledged civil disobedience if officials attempt to remove the massive 5,300-pound monument.

In their decision, the eight state justices invoked a state law that gives them the authority to overrule any administrative decision made by the chief justice.

Chief Justice Moore, who acts as head administrative officer of Alabama’s courts, installed the Ten Commandments display on the night of July 31, 2001.

On Oct. 30 of that year, the American Civil Liberties Union in conjunction with Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed suit against Chief Justice Moore, saying the display amounted to an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

Judge Thompson agreed, and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision, saying displays on government property cannot promote or be affiliated with a religion.

Supporters of Chief Justice Moore note there are similar displays of religion in government facilities all over the country — including in the U.S. Supreme Court building.

“If the Ten Commandments emblazoned on the wall of the Supreme Court for the past 150 years hasn’t forced Americans to become part of an official state religion, what makes the esteemed justices think a monument in the Supreme Court of Alabama will accomplish such?” asked Sandy Rios of Concerned Women for America. “There’s no evidence that anyone has been coerced in any way to serve some state-sanctioned God.”

She said the case is a matter of states’ rights, and called Judge Thompson’s order “tyrannical overreaching.”

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, called yesterday’s decision by the Alabama justices, “the end of the one-way dead-end road that Judge Moore has been on,” and said it is “extremely unlikely” the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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